Hearing the name Kelly Clarkson, you automatically think of a couple of things – her win on American Idol, the chart-topping songs she produces, and the singular powerhouse voice she has.
The latter is still present on Meaning of Life, the first album since her switch from RCA Records to Atlantic after finishing the contract she’d had since Idol.
The extent to which this has affected the production of her music is one thing, but I can say for certain it hasn’t affected the quality of the music in Meaning Of Life. Keeping this in mind, you can really start to delve into the music. When you initially start to play the album, you hear an intro track. Although not a new technique for artists, it’s just one way that shows Clarkson wants to stand out and be unique. Right after comes “Love So Soft,” which has been playing more frequently on the radio in the past few weeks and is proving to be the song to come to the most acclaim. Clarkson’s vocals are the most striking in the song overall, as she shows off with a significant amount of runs and a more than decent show of her vocal range. Lots of horns and embellishments add to the mixture, making for a pop tune that has pizzazz. While catchy and appealing, there are tracks that have more substance as you go down the line.
The titular song, “Meaning of Life,” is the starting song where the listener can discern the soul that Clarkson attempts to incorporate into this album. While she has always hinted at being a more pop and almost rock (especially at her beginning) singer, she’s never shied away from adding a bit of “soul” in the past. In this instance, Clarkson attempts to take full advantage of her voice as she tends to do throughout; it’s obvious her recent pattern is focusing more and more on vocals. While this may invoke a sacrifice in other areas of instrumentals, it doesn’t seem to affect “Meaning of Life” in any way particularly. Instead, the listener is treated to an array of piano, backup vocals, and even violins.
Next comes “Whole Lotta Woman,” whose lyrics are clever and witty. Sizzling lines like “In the south, it gets no realer, baby/Pot full of grits, I’m hotter than your mama’s supper, boy” and “I’m a whole lotta woman/I’m a strong, bad-ass with classic confidence” define the song. Like many other songs, keeping up with the more “soul” vibe, comes a prominent horn section. Meanwhile, “Medicine” comes in and sounds like older Clarkson with an updated and modern vibe. It’s one of my favorites off of the album, and proves she can be successful doing what she always has done while adding a new and unique twist to her music that draws us back in.
As you go along, you encounter “Slow Dance,” a classic love ballad and one of two slower songs that is featured. Along with “Cruel,” these two songs focus on a relationship, but vary in their outcome. Overall, the songs on this album are well-done and Clarkson continues to impress with her vocals in all regards. While all were solid, I was a tad confused about the “soul” vibe I was receiving. The horns and strong vocals are all indicative of this, but they were hidden and obscured when combined with the pop sounds. The album may have been ameliorated if they had been brought out or incorporated further and infused in all tracks. However, we are only granted tid-bits and moments, not nearly enough.